A Kane County judge ruled Thursday a llama and an alpaca should be taken from an Elgin woman facing charges of cruelty to animals and neglect.
But Stacy Fiebelkorn gets to retain ownership of her horses, two goats and some donkeys until her criminal case is decided. Kane County Animal Control will keep the animals until then, Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood ruled.
Immediate forfeiture was possible in relation to the animal cruelty charge. Flood said there was inadequate testimony to prove cruelty for the horses and the two goats in question.
Flood also said there was no testimony of severe injuries to the animals, or how long they had been in Fiebelkorn's care.
On Wednesday, a veterinarian testified that she recommended a miniature horse, called Hercules, be treated in an intensive care unit or euthanized because of an infection in its jaw. Animal Control decided to euthanize the horse.
Fiebelkorn had relinquished ownership of her poultry, her rabbits, most of her goats and one alpaca and one llama Wednesday.
Sauceda testified Thursday that one of the pregnant horses gave birth Wednesday but that the foal died. Flood said, however, that no evidence had been presented as to the cause of death, so she would not consider that. She also would not consider a frozen dead donkey and dead goat found in the loader bucket of a tractor in a field, because the state had not proved Fiebelkorn owned those animals.
Fiebelkorn's attorney questioned whether the state had proved who owned some of the animals, because three people rented the barn and paddocks in which the animals were found. But a defense witness, a hay dealer, testified that it was only Fiebelkorn who ordered and paid for hay. A sheriff's deputy testified Fiebelkorn told her that she came to the farm to care for the animals every evening.
Veterinarian Susan Brown testified that a baby alpaca, also called a cria, could have permanent skeletal damage, as well as other problems, from lack of food. When she came to the farm March 7, the alpacas were "emaciated. Like living skeletons," Brown said. She also examined the rabbits, poultry and goats.
"Social starvation" was likely in play for them all, Brown said, explaining why some of the rabbits were obese and some of the goats and poultry fatter than others. Stronger or more assertive animals will bully others to get to food first, she said.
The female cria was in a stall with an intact male llama, and normally the male might have tried to mate. "I'm guessing these animals were more concerned about eating than having sex," she said.
But defense witness veterinarian Phillip Kapraun, who specializes in horses, said that when he visited the farm Feb. 26, two days after Animal Control began investigating, there was sufficient good-quality hay and there was liquid water available in the paddocks. He said he was "very pleased to see how clean the pens were" and that the horses he saw "had nice winter-hair coats." Kapraun said he did not physically examine all the horses and did not rate them for fatness on the common body conditioning scale system because he doesn't use it.
As for the buildup of 8 to 10 inches of frozen feces under straw in a goat pen, he said that was a common practice, to insulate smaller animals from cold floors in winter. He said a horse, depending on its type, could survive one to two days without water in the winter.
None were emaciated, he said, "not even close to starving."
Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Curtiss said she would file a new request Friday for Fiebelkorn to put up money or other security for the costs Animal Control is incurring. Last week, Director Robert Sauceda estimated the cost of caring for all of Fiebelkorn's animals taken from a Hampshire farm would be at least $36,000 for a month. That request will be heard at 1 p.m. March 26.
Fiebelkorn is accused of having dead horses, donkeys, goats and chickens on properties she used in Maple Park and Hampshire. Animal Control seized more than 90 other animals. She has also been ticketed for failure to register two dogs and failure to inoculate them for rabies.
Kane and McHenry county court records show one of the other renters has been named as a co-defendant on several eviction or contract lawsuits with Fiebelkorn.